Defense

New Pentagon chief hires adviser who wants quick withdrawal from Afghanistan

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New acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller has hired a senior adviser who has frequently pressed for the quick removal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Defense Department confirmed Wednesday.

Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor “will be serving as a Senior Advisor to the Acting Secretary of Defense. Mr. MacGregor’s decades of military experience will be used to assist in the continued implementation of the President’s national security priorities,” a Pentagon spokesperson told The Hill.

Macgregor, a frequent Fox News guest and Trump’s failed pick for U.S. ambassador to Germany, numerous times in the past year has advocated for the United States to pull its forces from conflicts in the Middle East.

In a January interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, MacGregor said only Trump could end the war in Afghanistan.

“He’s promised to do that a long time ago and he’s disappointed a lot of us because he hasn’t. He can stand up tomorrow and pull us out. But he needs to send everyone out of the Oval Office who keeps telling him ‘if you do that and something bad happens, it’s going to be blamed on you, Mr. President.’ He needs to say, ‘I don’t give a damn,’ ” MacGregor said at the time.

He has also said the United States should remove the U.S. Embassy from Kabul, Afghanistan. 

Axios was the first to report on the hire Wednesday, a move meant to help quickly withdraw U.S. troops from the Middle East before the end of the Trump administration in January, three people familiar with the move told the news outlet.

Trump ran in 2016 on the promise of stopping “endless wars” and bringing U.S. troops home from foreign conflicts, particularly the now 19-year Afghanistan War.

But the promise has proved difficult to fulfill. In 2017, Trump announced that Washington would be increasing American troops in Afghanistan from 8,600 to roughly 14,000 at the advice of his military advisers.

Then in summer 2019, the Trump administration planned to negotiate with the Taliban to reduce U.S. force levels back to where they had been when Trump took office. Negotiations were canceled that December, however, after a Taliban attack killed a U.S. soldier.

The administration in February once again took up talks and signed a conditional peace deal with the Taliban that requires a full U.S. withdrawal by May if the insurgents uphold counterterrorism commitments such as denying safe haven to al Qaeda.

But since the deal was signed, the Taliban has stepped up attacks against Afghan forces. Such attacks do not violate the deal, but U.S. officials have repeatedly condemned the level of violence as unacceptably high and threatening to the peace process.

Trump has reportedly been frustrated with the pace of the troop withdrawal, and weeks prior to the presidential election asserted on Twitter that forces would be home by Christmas.

The tweet, which came just hours after his national security adviser said the U.S. would draw down to about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan by early next year, caused confusion.

Top Pentagon officials have said they have not yet been ordered to pull troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Macgregor, a Trump loyalist, will likely aid in an accelerated drawdown plan before the president leaves the White house in roughly 70 days.

His hire raises worries as his controversial rhetoric about Muslims and undocumented immigrants had caused then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper to pass him over earlier this year for the Pentagon’s policy chief spot.

Macgregor has said the European Union and Germany are too welcoming to “unwanted Muslim invaders,” and that Muslim immigrants enter “with the goal of eventually turning Europe into an Islamic state,” rhetoric that stalled his chances as U.S. ambassador to Germany.

Trump in July nominated Macgregor to replace Ambassador Richard Grenell, who quit the post in June.

Macgregor also has pressed for martial law at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Lawmakers and advocacy groups at the time requested that the White House withdraw MacGregor’s nomination over his inflammatory comments.

Macgregor’s hire also comes days after Trump ousted Esper via tweet, setting off a flurry of resignations at the Pentagon. 

The departures include top policy official James Anderson, the agency’s top intelligence official Joseph Kernan and Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart. All three on Tuesday submitted letters announcing their resignations, effective immediately.

The empty spots raise fears that the administration is moving to fill the department with loyalists who won’t stand in the way of controversial executive actions in the 11 weeks before Trump must vacate his post.

— Updated at 3:41 p.m.

Tags Afghanistan Christopher Miller Douglas Macgregor Mark Esper Pentagon Richard Grenell Tucker Carlson

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